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Hiking is a great activity to be taken up as a hobby or a sport. When you go on a hike, you end up coming back refreshed, energized and rejuvenated. It is a great exercise and allows you to bond with nature by being outdoors.
Hiking has many benefits that will encourage you to take it up as a hobby.
While hiking short distances can be done closer to city limits and can be fit into a normal day without a lot of planning, people who hike as a sport and passion put in a lot of effort and preparation into the activity.
Multi-day trips require a lot of planning and preparation. There are travel routes to be chalked out, camping arrangements to be made, weather conditions to be checked, food and ration to be carried and a million other small things to take care of.
Here is a basic list of things that you would need while hiking. For a short trip, you will not require all of them, but for a long hike, you should definitely try to carry all these things.
While going on short day-trips, lasting about an hour or two at most, it is easier to just wear your workout clothes and start.
One of the most important things to consider while going on a long hiking trip lasting for a few days is the amount of thought that you must put into your clothing. Some of the factors to be considered are –
This is undoubtedly one of the biggest influencing factors while deciding on the clothing to wear outdoors. Warm weather calls for light clothing, while heavy clothing is called for when the weather turns cold.
Steep and long trails mean a lot of heat and sweat generated by the body, which may not be handled well with heavy clothing, even if the weather is cold.
On the other hand, if the weather is warm during the hike, but goes south while camping, lightweight clothing could spell disaster.
A point to think about here is how much load you can carry. Most hikers prefer to carry light during travel, so striking a balance between having enough clothes and optimizing the weight of the backpack becomes important.
Think about how often you will be hiking, and the conditions you would be under. If you take hiking trips regularly, it makes sense to invest in good pieces of clothing that work under different conditions.
Layering is nothing but wearing multiple pieces of clothing one beneath the other, depending on the weather and the activity to be performed.
Layering helps with preserving body heat or allowing it to cool down, as the conditions may be. It protects the wearer from either being too cold or too hot.
Here is how you should be layering your clothes for hiking, starting from the innermost to the outermost layer –
The layer closest to the body helps with managing moisture (sweat) on the skin. An ideal base layer is something that helps in getting rid of the sweat quickly while maintaining the body temperature at an optimum level.
Acts as an insulator to retain body heat, typically garments like fleece or down jackets. It is important to choose the correct middle layers. A good middle layer will trap the warm air close to the body and help in keeping the body temperature at an optimum level.
Middle layers typically repel water and are made of breathable material. They should be able to expel the moisture that the base layers pull out from the body.
The middle layers should not be too bulky. They are typically made of the following materials –
The problem with down is that they can retain odour and they get cold when wet. However, they are durable, lightweight and non-bulky. Wool is the best to maintain body temperature, but they can add a lot of bulk.
Synthetics are durable, help with wicking, but they are not too great at keeping warm.
The outer layer helps with protection from conditions like rain, snow, and heat. These pieces of clothing repel water and are made from breathable materials. Typically, it should be lightweight, durable, waterproof and should be able to protect under windy conditions.
The base layer is the only layer that is worn constantly. The outer and the middle layers can be worn or removed according to the weather conditions, and the body temperature. Therefore, it is important that the middle and outer layers are lightweight, compressible and easy to carry around.
Wicking is the process of drawing away moisture from the skin. Sweat is absorbed into the base layer fabric, which is then removed by evaporation.
When it is cold, moisture on the skin can rob the body of the heat, sometimes to the extent of causing hypothermia.
If there is a lot of moisture on the skin and it is not removed quickly, it can lead to very painful chafing, especially around the thigh area, and the area where the backpack rests against the back.
When it is hot, evaporation of sweat helps in transferring the excess heat from the body to the environment, keeping you cool and comfortable.
Hence, wicking is a necessary process and choosing the right fabric to quickly remove sweat from the skin and keep the body temperature at a comfortable level is very important.
Check this video to understand more about the wicking process –
Abrasion is the wear and tear that occurs in the fabric because of movement while wearing it. It can also happen because of snagging of the material on sharp objects, or general weakening of the fibres in the fabric.
Generally, if the wicking capacity of the fabric is not high, then the moisture that gets absorbed into it can lead to abrasion. Lower wicking capacity usually means faster wear and tear of the clothing.
The base layer forms the most important part of the clothing system for hiking because –
The base layers are typically made of synthetic materials, silk or wool. Here is a comparison between the materials based on various parameters –
|Resistance to Abrasion||High||Very Low||Medium|
|Body Odour Retention||High||Medium||Low|
|Suitability in Warm Weather||Very High||High||Medium|
|Suitability in Cold Weather||Low||Medium||High|
|Suitability for High-Intensity Activity||High||Medium||Low|
|Suitability for Low-Intensity Activity||Low||Medium||High|
Base layers made of fabrics like nylon, polyester, nylon etc. fall into this category. Synthetic base layers are best suited for warm weather, as they are not very good at holding the heat in.
Look for brands with antimicrobial treatments, as they tend to hold on to body odour a lot lesser.
Silk is an expensive material, but it is very soft, luxurious and non-bulky compared to other materials. It is very good at holding in heat, making it suitable for cold weather.
Look for brands which have additional treatment to help with faster wicking process.
Typically, Merino Wool is used in making base layers. This variety of wool is fine and does not irritate the skin, as compared to normal wool.
It is important that the base layers fit correctly.
A loose fit may work in warm conditions by allowing enough space for excess body heat to escape. However, under cold conditions, it will let precious body heat escape, leaving you cold and clammy.
Similarly, a snug fit in cold conditions is appropriate. But, under warm conditions, then fit will not let the body cool down correctly.
Choose a fit which is neither too tight nor loose. Base layers should be chosen in such a way that the fit allows you to move freely without restricting your movements, while at the same time, it is close enough to the body without causing discomfort.
Overall, choose the right base layer after thinking upon these factors –
For most parts, synthetics and wools will serve the purpose of wearing a base layer very well. Synthetics are more economical compared to wool and are easier to care for. However, wool will offer more protection under harsh weather conditions.
Silks feel good on the skin, but apart from this, both synthetic and wool should be able to do the job.
Taking care of your clothing correctly as per the manufacturer’s instructions is important to preserve them for long and in a good condition.
Sam Hardy is an outdoor enthusiast with a penchant for survival skills. He writes about the great outdoors and his favorite equipment here.